5 Things: Stroud, Fisher share early Wyndham lead

Sergio Garcia during the first round of the 2013 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

Sergio Garcia during the first round of the 2013 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

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Ross Fisher and Chris Stroud took different routes to opening-round 6-under 64s on Thursday at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

Fisher made four birdies, an eagle and no bogeys while Stroud needed eight birdies to offset two bogeys, nine missed fairways and seven missed greens.

Yet both players find themselves tied for the first-round lead at Sedgefield Country Club.

But one shot back is a strong list of eight players at 5 under, one that includes defending champion Sergio Garcia, young star Jordan Spieth and Robert Garrigus.

Here are 5 Things to Know from the first round of action at the final regular-season event of the PGA Tour season:

• • •

1. BUCKING THE TREND: Chris Stroud hasn’t had much success since the Wyndham Championship moved to Sedgefield Country Club five years ago.

He’s missed the cut four times and finished 73rd last year. But the trend of poor finishes could come to an end this week after Stroud opened with a 6-under 64 Thursday to take a one-shot lead.

“I’ve even told people I love this golf course,” Stroud said. “I have no idea why I don't play well here; maybe because I don't hit it in the fairway very often like I did today.”

Stroud hit just five fairways and 11 greens, but made eight birdies in his opening round – “I got away with a lot today,” he said.

But he’s in position for another solid finish this week. Stroud already has four top-10s this season, including a playoff loss to Ken Duke at the Travelers Championship. He’s never finished higher than No. 61 in the FedEx Cup standings, but at No. 48 entering this week, he has a chance to end that trend, as well.

• • •

2. BACK ON TRACK: As Tiger Woods proved again three weeks ago at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, there’s nothing like returning to a course you’ve won on before to get you back on track.

Sergio Garcia is experiencing that so far this week at Sedgefield Country Club.

Garcia fired a 5-under 65 Thursday to open play at the Wyndham Championship. It’s the eighth time in nine rounds that he’s shot in the 60s at Sedgefield during this event. He’s one shot back of leaders Chris Stroud and Ross Fisher.

“I did hit the ball pretty nicely, which was nice to see, and holed a couple nice putts here and there,” said Garcia, who is the defending champion. But overall I'm very happy with the round and hoping to do more of the same (Friday).”

Garcia went bogey-free Thursday, missing just one green and two fairways. He did have 31 putts, but also had three birdie putts from 5 feet or closer.

The Spaniard is trying to become the first player to repeat at this tournament since Sam Snead did it back in the 1950s. He’s also trying to notch his first top 10 since the Players Championship in May.

Garcia has played just four times on Tour since then – three majors and at Firestone – but while he made the cut in all four events, he failed to break the top 20. And at No. 66 in the FedEx Cup standings entering the week, he’d love a repeat victory at Sedgefield to improved his standing entering the playoffs next week.

• • •

3. SAME PLACE, DIFFERENT SCENARIO: Matt Jones has seen his FedEx Cup playoff dreams end before at the Wyndham Championship.

In 2009, Jones finished 69th to fall from No. 119 to No. 126 in the FedEx Cup standings. Two year later, he missed the cut to drop from No. 121 to No. 127.

Things are different this year, though. Jones enters the final regular-season event on the PGA Tour ranked No. 51, safely inside the top 125 list of players who will qualify for next week’s opening playoff event, The Barclays. And after an opening-round 5-under 65 Thursday in Greensboro, Jones has set his sights on much bigger goals.

“My only goal right now is get (into the) top 30 (to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship) or a win,” said Jones, who had to re-earn his Tour card through Q-School after finishing No. 184 in last year’s FedExCup race.

Jones has three top-10 finishes in his last six starts, including a career-best T-2 showing at the Greenbrier Classic. He shot 68 in the final round of last week’s PGA Championship, and he’s carried that momentum over to Sedgefield Country Club.

He missed just three fairways and four greens, and needed just 27 putts to get through his opening round. His bogey-free round has him on shot off of Chris Stroud’s lead.

“It's always good to get off to a good start,” Jones said. “I knew with the quality field this week 5 under is a good round, but it's not going to do a lot if you don't keep it going. There are a lot of good players (out here). I'm going to have to keep playing well.”

• • •

4. SPIETH’S NEARLY STRESS-FREE ROUND: Jordan Spieth called his opening-round 65 “stress-free.”

And for the most part, he was right. Spieth, who notched his first PGA Tour win last month at the John Deere Classic, missed just four greens and needed just 27 putts to get through his round. He also had just two par putts longer than a couple of feet – and both of those were around the 6-foot range.

“It’s a round that you want to have in the first round,” said Spieth, who missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship.

The only scary moment for Spieth in an otherwise calming round came at the par-5 15th. Spieth went for the green in two, but after hitting his second shot – a 3-wood from 242 yards out of the rough – Spieth immediately yelled, “fore!”

The ball sailed long and left, and into the grandstands. But the ball caromed around before ricocheting back onto the front fringe. He would get up-and-down for one of his five birdies on the round.

“That was unbelievable,” Spieth said. “Fortunately, it didn’t hit anybody, let alone getting back onto the green. . . . I’m interested to kind of watch the shot later and maybe see it in slow-mo and see what happened. But obviously, very fortunate break and really happy I took advantage of it with a birdie.”

• • •

5. SHORT SHOTS: After winning last week at the Web.com Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship, Andrew Svoboda was among those who shot 5-under 65 Thursday in Greensboro. . . . Morgan Hoffmann made six birdies, including three straight, at Nos. 16-18, before finishing with an opening-round 65. Hoffmann has made five straight cuts on Tour, including top 10s at the Travelers Championship and AT&T National. . . . Patrick Reed (5 under) has three top 10s in his last six Tour starts, including two straight entering this week. . . . Robert Garrigus’ T-25 finish at the PGA Championship was his best finish since April. He backed his solid showing in Rochester, N.Y., with a 65 Thursday at Sedgefield. (Read Jim McCabe’s story on Garrigus’ turnaround last week at Oak Hill).

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